Learn more… • www.apple.com
Available from… • www.store.apple.com
Key features: • Simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi • AirPlay compatible • Wireless printing
The first thing readers familiar with the AirPort Express will notice is that the popular device has undergone a drastic change in appearance. Gone is the plug, instead the device now mimics the Apple TV in appearance – a smooth rectangular base unit that will easily fit in around your home. When it was launched it almost came in under the radar given that it was previewed alongside iOS 6 and the new MacBook Pro, but this piece of Apple hardware is most definitely worth examining in more detail.
The big headline in terms of new features is the AirPort Express now comes with simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi. This means that it transmits on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands at the same time. The reason for this is all to do with connection speed. Devices like the iPhone 4S and earlier use the 2.4GHz frequency, while your iPad, Mac and iPhone 5 are more suited to the 5GHz frequency. It means faster performance for all the devices on your AirPort Express network, with your device traffic spaced out.
Speaking of networks, as part of the setup process you can create a guest network just for temporary users, with password security if you so wish. This guest network only allows internet access so the other aspects of your primary network, for example LAN-attached devices, remain secure.
It is also worth noting that the AirPort Express is compatible with any Wi-Fi device, from Mac to iPad to PC. Such a range of compatibility with other hardware comes in handy for the next big feature update, and that is the presence of AirPlay.
You can now use the AirPort Express as the springboard to send media wirelessly between devices in your home. Beam photos and music from your iPhone to your Mac or iPad to see them on a bigger screen. AirPlay compatible speakers can also be linked up to your network so you can wirelessly create a home stereo system that will be the envy of all your friends. And if they fancy playing DJ they can send songs to the speakers to be played themselves. This all makes for a seriously impressive home entertainment system, and it is incredibly easy to set up and manage.
This is due to the limited steps that it takes to get the AirPort Express going in the first place. If you have an existing Wi-Fi network in your home you will most likely use this piece of kit to extend the range of speed of your current setup, as well as take advantage of the AirPlay functionality. This means plugging the device into your existing router, and then joining the newly discovered network on your device as you would any other Wi-Fi network. The setup menu allows you to name the network and set security levels. It’s all very easy.
The process can also be done for iOS devices thanks to the updated AirPort Utility app, which now supports IPv6 websites, and enables you to manage your network remotely from inside the application.
As well as wireless media playing and sharing, you can also connect to compatible printers to print your documents completely wire free and from another room if you need to. It is these little touches, especially when you again consider the simple setting up process and physical practicality of the hardware, that make the AirPort Express seem like a worthwhile investment, especially if your home is a constant hub of internet activity.
While you can get so much joy out of this wireless activity, the AirPort Express does come with a host of connection ports to make cable-free bliss possible. There are both WAN and LAN Ethernet ports, as well as a 3.5mm audio mini- jack for digital sound devices, and a USB 2.0 port to connect your printer in order to enable wireless printing from any computer on the network.
The stats certainly make this new- look AirPort Express worth your hard- earned cash, and the experience you get once you start to use the device will have you wondering why you didn’t get involved sooner.